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Denver Johnson & Wales campus already transforming under new owners

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Denver Johnson & Wales campus already transforming under new owners

Five months after Denver Public Schools, the Denver Housing Authority and nonprofit Urban Land Conservancy teamed to buy the 25-acre Johnson & Wales University property in northeast Denver, change is starting.

A pair of affordable housing projects are in the planning stages for the former dorm buildings on the property, located at 7150 Montview Blvd. A major expansion of the Denver School of the Arts on the campus’ west side also is on deck. That project is expected to allow the school to grow by between 500 and 700 students and prioritize students of color and low-income families, officials said when the sale closed in June.

The work follows pledges from Johnson & Wales representatives last year that the university would prioritize buyers dedicated to supporting the surrounding neighborhood

Even before construction crews get started on those projects, new public benefits are starting on the historic property.

Jorge de la Torre, formerly the dean of the culinary program at Johnson & Wales, joined nonprofit shared kitchen and food business incubator Kitchen Network when that organization opened a location on the campus this summer.

Kitchen Network in turn brought in organizations including Work Options, a nonprofit job training program focused on helping people with criminal records and those who are homeless develop kitchen skills, and starting an apprenticeship program with the Rocky Mountain Chefs of Colorado. Partnerships with more than a half-dozen other nonprofits and local restaurant companies are also in place and a 24-hour commissary kitchen is expected to open on the campus early next year, de la Torre said.

“The silver lining is (the campus) just gets a second life to be available to people who may not have been able to afford a Johnson & Wales education,” he said. “We can just reach a larger population.”

Erick Garcia, Kitchen Network’s chief operating officer, said the nonprofit has 150 monthly active users and helped launch more than 60 new businesses this year, as of November. With its Park Hill location, Garcia hopes to triple those numbers over the next five years, reaching a new well of clients on the east side of the city, many of them Spanish-speaking.

Hyoung Chang, The Denver Post

Clockwise from front left, volunteer Debby Kaufman-Hoja, Danielle Cooke of Ms. Betty’s Cooking, Ruby Geiger, chef instructor of the Rocky Mountain Chefs of Colorado, and Chef Tajahi Cooke of Ms. Betty’s Cooking season turkeys in the kitchen at the Culinary Arts building of the former Johnson and Wales Campus in Denver on Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2021.

Across from the culinary arts building, the campus’ historic Centennial Hall is providing St. Elizabeth’s School with room to grow.

The K-8 private Episcopal school, with 140 students, now has the space to double in size, director of finance and operations Kim Johnson said. Part of the school’s mission is to be “intentionally inclusive.” Its student body is 49% students of color and 83% of students get discounted tuition. School leadership saw the Park Hill campus as an opportunity to work alongside organizations with similar values and goals, Johnson said.

Preserving history, providing opportunity

Centennial Hall was completed in 1908 when the campus debuted as Colorado Women’s College, according to Historic Denver. It and the other buildings are part of the landscape and the culture of the greater Park Hill area, said Denver City Councilwoman Robin Kniech, who lives about a mile away from the campus.

Seeing DPS, the housing authority and the Urban Land Conservancy come together and be able to pull off the acquisition was both a pleasant surprise and very reassuring, she said.

On the opposite side of Denver, for-profit development firm Westside Investment Partners is also working on historic reuse and affordable housing projects at the former Loretto Heights college campus on Federal Boulevard, but Kniech said the city had to push for affordability there. In Park Hill, creating affordable housing is a core mission of two of the new owners.

“I believe that our (Park Hill) community recognizes the importance of being able to bring together preservation of historic buildings and preservation of affordable housing options in our city,” Kniech said.

Focus on housing

It may be a while before people can move into the planned affordable apartments.

The Denver Housing Authority views the two dorm buildings it acquired on the property’s south side as an opportunity for “really quick housing,” spokeswoman Keo Fraizer said. Some of the 72 units already have kitchens and private bathrooms. But work is needed and the agency is focused on preserving the historic elements of the building. The agency doesn’t have a timeline for when it expects to open, Fraizer said.

Nonprofit developer Archway Communities cleared an important hurdle earlier this month in its efforts to transform about 400 dorm rooms on the northeast side of the campus into affordable apartments. The Colorado Housing and Finance Authority awarded the project a combined $2.9 million in competitive state and federal tax credits to help fund the work.

Archway plans to tap into historic preservation tax credits and other financing for what is expected to be a roughly $45 million project, president and CEO Sebastian Corradino said. When work is completed — ideally sometime in early 2024 — the four buildings Archway is under contract to buy from the Urban Land Conservancy will be turned into more than 150 subsidized apartments, at least 10 of which will be available to families making 30% or less of the area median income. Using 2021 income figures, that would cap the rent for a three-bedroom apartment at $817 a month for qualified low-income families.

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Avalanche’s Nazem Kadri, former DU star Troy Terry voted to NHL All-Star Game

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Avalanche’s Nazem Kadri, former DU star Troy Terry voted to NHL All-Star Game

Avalanche center Nazem Kadri is headed to his first NHL All-Star Game. So is Colorado native and former Denver Pioneers standout Troy Terry.

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DIA sets new record for the number of guns seized at airport security

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DIA sets new record for the number of guns seized at airport security

Denver International Airport ranked sixth nationally in 2021 for the number of firearms seized by TSA agents at security checkpoints, the Transportation Security Administration announced Tuesday.

In 2021, agents found 141 firearms in travelers carry-on luggage, more than any year since 2018, according to TSA data. Nationally, 5,972 guns were seized at airport security checkpoints. The 141 guns seized set a new record at the Denver airport, the TSA said in a news release.

“As the data suggests, travelers bringing firearms in carry-on luggage is not new and we have now reached an unacceptable level of carelessness by gun owners. Simply stated, one gun in carry-on luggage is one too many,” TSA Federal Security Director for Colorado Larry Nau said in a news release.

Still, the percentage of passengers trying to bring guns onto airplanes is small.

Security agents at DIA screened approximately 18.3 million departing passengers and crew in 2021, making it the sixth busiest airport for TSA security checkpoint screening operations. That is a 72% increase in passenger traffic over 2020, a year where air travel was marred by the coronavirus pandemic.

The airports with the most firearms seized at security in 2021 are:

  • Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport , 507
  • Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, 317
  • Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport, 245
  • Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, 196
  • Nashville International Airport, 163.

Travelers caught with firearms at an airport security checkpoint face criminal and civil penalties. Even those with concealed carry permits must check their unloaded weapons in a hard-sided case.

For more information on carrying firearms on an airplane, visit https://www.tsa.gov/travel/transporting-firearms-and-ammunition.

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Opinion: Colorado must address workforce age discrimination

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Opinion: Colorado must address workforce age discrimination

We have a paradox going on in Colorado: employers are desperately looking for talent, and older adults are desperately looking for work. But workforce age discrimination makes it difficult for older Coloradans to fully contribute to the labor market.

For years, older workers from every corner of the state have told me their frustrating and often heartbreaking stories of age discrimination that prevented them from landing needed jobs, that they faced once in the workplace, and that they felt as they were forced out.

Stories like these: a man who was a colleague of mine, a fundraising pro with decades of success who couldn’t get callbacks for development jobs; a former corporate marketing VP who was told that she lost out to a younger applicant because the hiring manager assumed she would not be social media savvy; a group of women in their 60s forced to live on small social security checks — this despite help-wanted signs in almost every store window in their Western Slope town.

Such age discrimination is common: studies from AARP and others show that 78% of workers over 45 have seen or experienced age discrimination in the workplace and over one-half of long-time, employees age 50 and over are forced to leave positions before they would voluntarily choose to do so. Once this happens, only 10% of them ever regain their previous economic status.

Nationwide, the country lost $850 billion in GDP due to age discrimination and that could grow to $3.9 trillion by 2050, reports the AARP.

Discrimination based upon age has especially harmful consequences for already economically vulnerable groups like women, people of color, and those with low incomes.

There are many reasons to work toward ending workforce age discrimination. There are ways to do it, and there’s no time to waste.

First off, ending age discrimination is good for business. Older adults provide numerous benefits in the workplace. Intergenerational teams create mentoring opportunities, improve team problem-solving, and increase creativity born from combining different perspectives and histories.

Keeping older workers on the job strengthens economies from Main Street to Wall Street. Ongoing paychecks mean more disposable income spent and more taxes paid, while tax-supported benefits can be delayed.

Older adults also need to continue working: the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that 48% of households headed by a person aged 55 or older lack retirement savings. The median 401(k) balance for those between 55 and 64 is less than $15,000. For older adults who lack adequate savings, continuing to work past the traditional retirement age is an economic necessity.

Last, but not least, older adults want to continue working, and continued workforce participation may be connected to better physical and mental health for older adults.

When the legislature reconvenes in January, we can change our workforce discrimination laws so that our economy benefits from the experience and wisdom of older workers.

We must end requirements that job applicants write their high school graduation dates or other age-identifiers on application forms. Right now, it is illegal to ask someone their age, but not their high school graduation date.

And also, ensure that the penalties for age discrimination are commensurate with those for other forms of discrimination. Currently in Colorado, compensatory and punitive damages are allowed in race and gender discrimination cases, but not for age.

Make clear that Colorado’s age discrimination laws apply to hiring, and that the burden of providing age discrimination is not higher than for other forms of discrimination.

Some problems seem overwhelming and too big to solve, but this is one we can address. Certainly, we can’t legislate away ageism, but we can give older workers the same protections afforded to other groups — and we can help businesses get and keep the workers they need.

Janine Vanderburg directs Changing the Narrative, a Colorado-based campaign to change the way people think, talk and act about aging and ageism. The end game? To end ageism. You can read more about what they are doing to reduce workplace ageism.

To send a letter to the editor about this article, submit online or check out our guidelines for how to submit by email or mail.

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